The royal family of Qatar — the tiny Gulf kingdom that is the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas — has set its acquisitive sights on Christie’s, with the nation’s emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, speaking openly to the press about his interest in the world’s leading auction house. Already storied for major art purchases, including the so-called “Rockefeller Rothko” that went for $72.8 million in May 2007, the emir told the Financial Times that “we are investing everywhere, even in Harrods” and that regarding Christie’s, “it depends on the opportunity, if a good one presents itself we will not hesitate.” Suddenly, art-watchers around the globe are asking: Who is the Emir of Qatar?
The 58-year-old ruler, who attended the prestigious Sandhurst Military Academy in England and took the kingdom’s reins in 1995 after a coup that ousted his father, Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad Al Thani, is known as a globetrotting diplomat who made international headlines in 2008 when he met with Israeli minister Tzipi Livni as significant gesture in pursuing a dialogue with Israel. Then there’s the glamorous side of the emir’s ultra-luxe lifestyle, epitomized by the widely circulated image in the London tabloids of his beautiful wife, Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al-Missned, wearing a pair of $960 white Chanel faux–fur boots with three-and-a-half-inch icicle heels during the couple’s recent three-day stay in the Queen of England’s residence last month, a bid to increase trade between the kingdoms.
The Sheikha, one of three wives of the Emir, is also an international advocate for women’s rights, serving as a UNESCO special envoy for education and maintaining a Web site to help admirers keep track of her activities. (Unlike in some Gulf states, women of Qatar vote and are able to obtain driver’s licenses.)
video bonus : CNBC’s Guy Johnson explains why one of the world’s richest men, the Emir of Qatar, is one of the most welcome guests in countries affected by the recession.
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